The Aftermath of the Deceiver

Ever since I can remember, I have heard it said, "No one likes liars or thieves." I haven't met anyone who would disagree; no one likes a liar and no one likes a thief, and because they both take something of value from us. One Filipino blogger put it this way: "Liars and thieves — they are so alike — when a person lies to you, he deprives you of the truth in the same way a thief deprives you of what is yours when he takes it away from you." He is correct! Deception and theft both have negative, lasting effects that often means once that something is taken from us, what was lost may never be recovered.

      To make the point, let's go back to the beginning of deception, as told in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It was there God placed them and gave the task of tending the garden to Adam (Gen. 2:15), and commanded the man and the woman, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16, 17). With this command, there was an opportunity for eternal life (cf. Gen. 3:22, 23), and they had the blessing of God's presence on a regular basis. At that point, they had everything they needed, and were blessed.

      That came quickly crashing down when the Deceiver entered into the picture. The serpent deceived the woman (cf. 1 Tim. 2:14), and she ate of the tree that was forbidden and by that act sinned. The result was just as God had said, for man was spiritually separated from God from that day forward [dead]. The aftermath of that deception went a lot farther than just affecting Adam and Eve, though; as Paul wrote, “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). After sin entered into the world and before Christ came to earth and died for our sins, man did not have the means to be reconciled to God. It was “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). I am positive neither Adam nor Eve could have foreseen the aftermath of that decision to disobey God's clear command, though.

       The consequences of that one act will reach every man and woman who ever live on this earth, and the aftermath is a world now filled with ungodliness, sin, and violence, and generations of people who are adversely affected by the sins of others and, of course, by their own sins. The aftermath of the Deceiver is devastating.

      But, on a lesser scale, the deceiver who comes into our individual lives can have devastating results, too, with an aftermath that is just as unwanted and unpleasant, though it may be confined to the individual who has been deceived. When we are deceived by supposed friends or by individuals who have gained our trust, we are left to deal with the results of the deception and, once discovered, our lives are forever changed — and not for the better.

      Lost Trust. Every relationship — especially close relationships such as good friends, a marriage, or even a business partnership — is based on trust; the longer the relationship lasts, the more trust is built up and the more it is expected. If, after some time, one of the partners in the relationship is found to have deceived the other, the damage to that relationship may very well be irreparable. Think about it: If one is guilty of deceiving the other in the relationship, what can the deceiver say or do that would not be questioned by the one who has been deceived? What is the deceiver going to say or do to cause the other to now believe anything he does or says?

      Worse still, the one who has been deceived will now feel less willing to trust others, though no deception has been discovered or, in some cases, no relationship even exists yet. New relationships will be harder to start and doubts will now persist, though the deception is confined to only that one individual's actions or words. Innocent people will unfortunately be unable to convince the one who has been deceived that they are not like the deceiver, or that they are worthy of giving them a chance to prove themselves worthy. Through no fault of their own, others will also suffer for the deceived one's unwillingness to trust.

      Hurt Feelings. Especially in close friendships and in marriage relationships, deception that has been exposed will bring not only distrust, but feelings will be hurt because the deceived one had put his or her trust in the one who has now been revealed as untruthful. The hurt feelings come because there was an assumed mutual respect and honesty, and the one who has been deceived now feels disrespected by the deceiver and that the deceiver did not actually care about the other. One time may seem insignificant to some [especially to one who deceives others regularly], but all it takes is one occasion and one who is deceived may never forget it.

      A Ruined Reputation. One who is revealed as a deceiver will likely never regain his reputation, no matter how hard he or she tries and no matter what is done after the revelation of the deception. To make the point: Would you invest with Bernie Madhoff? Would you name your son Judas? Would you buy a car from someone who had previously sold you a lemon? Benjamin Franklin once said, "It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it." Indeed.

      If you've ever been on the receiving end of deception that has since been revealed, you know all this; you've gone through all this; you might still be going through this. For today, I won't get into the work that needs to be done to repair such relationship, but in preventing this and avoiding this. In other words: Don't even start.

      There is a reason God desires honesty and truthfulness in His people beyond the fact His word is truth (John 17:17) and the fact He does not lie (Titus 1:2) and wants us to be like Him; He wants us to refrain from dishonesty and deception for the aforementioned reasons and because we are examples to the world. It is His desire that we be people of integrity, so He commands us, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25). God's people should think, as Job said, “As long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit” (Job 27:3, 4).

      Deception is on the wrong side of truth and righteousness, for as the wise writer tells us, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil” (Prov. 12:20); of course, the deceiver would try to tell you he 'meant well,' but that, too, is a lie. Deception is just the beginning, for it often hides a greater evil or simply more evil. As the wise writer said it, “He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, and he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil” (Prov. 17:20). Sadly, the desire for evil is the motive behind the deception, and it will continue until he achieves his end goal, or until he is exposed for who and what he truly is.

      The aftermath of the deceiver is left to those who desire, speak, and live truth. What we do then will determine who we are. Let us love one another enough to speak truth to one another always, and seek truth speakers.

            Be a truth speaker.     — Steven Harper